NCP holds aces as CM meets allies

Mumbai: Eight days after the swearing in of his government, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday evening met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar to discuss allocation of portfolios among the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVS) partners and also the expansion of his council of ministers. The meeting was crucial as the Sena-NCP-Congress combine is yet to reach an agreement on allocation of portfolios to six ministers including Eknath Shinde, Subhash Desai (Shiv Sena), Jayant Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal (NCP) and Balasaheb Thorat, Nitin Raut (Congress).

Even though Thackeray is technically head of the government, three parties are restless over non- allocation of ministries as the winter session is slated to begin on December 16. NCP will get 16 ministerial berths, Shiv Sena will get 15 and Congress 12 in the 43-member state cabinet. Congress is demanding some key departments as the party believes it has got a raw deal as it is expected to get revenue, social justice, minorities affair and marketing.

On the other hand, NCP is not ready to leave its claim over Home, finance, cooperation and public works departments. Shiv Sena is happy with its departments including general administration, urban development, schools education, sports, youths and public health.

Friday's meeting took place a day after Congress and Shiv Sena leaders met as both the parties are pressing for the cabinet expansion before the commencement of winter session. However, NCP has been of the view that it should take place after December 21 when the session ends.

NCP leader told FPJ, "Today's meeting between Thackeray and Pawar was to sort out all issues pertaining to portfolio allocation.'' However, he declined to divulge futher details.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan pressed for an early cabinet expansion citing that the opposition may corner the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in its absence.

BJP legislator Atul Bhatkhalkar said that the government was busy staying projects launched by Fadnavis led government but has no time for portfolio allocation.

However, Shiv Sena in its mouthpiece Saamna said on Friday that the state government, which is just eight days old, is functioning quite smoothly.